Veteran uses sewing skills to make special tote bags for local nurses

RALEIGH COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – John Pearl, a 90-year-old veteran who lives in Stanaford, has certainly found his niche as he is using his sewing skills to make tote bags for local nurses on the frontlines.

“When I went in the Air Force in 1947, they made a parachute rigger out of me, and when you go to that school, you have to learn to sew, so I did that until I retired, and then I started doing it at home I guess,” Pearl laughed.

Since retirement, Pearl has been using webbing to create various straps and harnesses for local rafting companies and other community members.

His most recent venture has been creating tote bags as he has his own one-man company he operates out of his house called New River Straps.

As the proud father and grandfather of medical personnel, he wanted to do something for those helping COVID patients.

He has started making special white bags to donate to doctors’ offices. He most recently donated a batch to Beckley ARH where his grandson-in-law, Charlie Garvin, is an ICU clinical nurse manager.

“Well, he donated ten to the hospital, and I brought them all in at the same time and I almost didn’t make it to the unit. ‘Hey, what do you got there? Who are those for?’ So everybody was really psyched about these,” Garvin said.

Garvin went to say that most of the ICU nurses have been using the totes to bring their toiletries and a change of clothes for when they get off work.

To make the special bags, Pearl has to order a lot of white webbing from his go-to company Tape Craft in Alabama.

When the company found out what he was doing, they donated $500 worth of the white material.

So this is something Pearl hopes to continue to do as he says he wants to take care of those who would take care of him.

“Everybody needs to do their part if they can do it. I’m proud to do it. I’ll do it as long as this epidemic lasts if I have to. I really will. How many more hospitals are there?” he laughed.

Pearl is hoping to reach out to Raleigh General Hospital and Plateau Medical Center next.

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Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.